During the 2013 NFL season very few things got in the way of the Seattle Seahawks’ road to the Superbowl. They finished with a record of 13-3. Heading in to week 16, they suffered their first loss at home in 11 games to the Arizona Cardinals. The Seahawks were able to rebound with a win the final week of the season against the St. Louis Rams and secure home field advantage throughout the playoffs. In 2014, the NFC West is once again up for grabs against the Cardinals, only this time the Cardinals get to host with the hopes of taking the division crown.
Both teams have had their share of ups and down this year. The Seahawks have lost a lot of players on the defensive side of the ball as well as their offensive line. The Cardinals’ injuries are even more significant, however. Before the season started, they lost some key players on defense. After signing their quarterback, Carson Palmer, to a five-year multi-million dollar deal, he went down with his second torn ACL. With back-up quarterback Drew Stanton taking the snaps, they were able to continue their winning ways. They then lost their two starting running backs, and are going with a guy fresh off the practice squad. To make matters worse, Stanton also went down. The Cardinals now sit at the top of the division with a one game lead, riding with a third-string running back, and third-string quarterback Ryan Lidley.
Last Thursday, the Cardinals were able to pick up a division win against the St. Louis Rams in a defensive battle. For the first time this season, there was a game with no touchdowns as the Cardinals won 12-6. Both the Seahawks and the Cardinals have top defenses that have been able to win games for them. The Cardinals are going to have to rely on that defense if they want to win the division and then do anything in the playoffs.
Corner back Patrick Peterson is regarded as one of the top corner backs in the league, but was torched for over 100 yards and a touchdown against Julio Jones of the Atlanta Falcons. While Seattle may not have a receiver of Jones’ caliber, that may be of some worry to fans. Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse of the Seahawks have had a great couple of games as of late. The Seahawks are not likely to put up staggering numbers through the air, but the threat of it will be there.
The Seahawks have been a “run first” team ever since Marshawn Lynch joined the team. Lynch is one of the top backs in the league, and defenses often comment on how hard he is to bring down. When watching him play, it is hard to find a time where the first man to get to him was able to tackle him. Lynch has been dealing with back problems all season long that have limited his success, but even with that he has still racked up 1133 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground this season.
The last time the two teams played, the Cardinals were able to keep Lynch to just 39 yards. The problem with focusing on stopping Lynch is the fact that quarterback Russell Wilson is almost as much of a threat to run as he is to throw. When teams stack the box to stop Lynch from running up the middle, that leaves Wilson free to roll out of the pocket and either run for the first down, or throw to an open receiver because there is an extra man ready to stop Lynch.
Going into Sundays game, the Cardinals have a one-game lead over the Seahawks in the division. If the Cardinals win the game, they are in the driver’s seat to clinch home field advantage during the playoffs and the Seattle will fall down to a Wild Card team and have to play on the road the entire time if they hope to get back to the Superbowl. If the Seahawks defeat the Cardinals, the teams will have the same record, but since the Seahawks will have won both games against the Cardinals, they will hold the tie breaker and move into first place in the NFC West.
Both teams play a division game in the final week of the season. The Cardinals will play the San Francisco 49ers, who were just eliminated from the playoffs by the Seahawks. The Seahawks will host the Rams yet again in week 17 as they did last year.
With so much on the line in the final two weeks of the season, it is sure to be an exciting stretch of football. To make matters more exciting, the game will be nationally televised on Sunday Night Football on NBC. Another big game for Seahawks fans to watch is the Dallas Cowboys going against the Indianapolis Colts. The Cowboys and the Seahawks will have the same record, and the Cowboys hold the tie breaker because they beat Seattle back in October. Seahawks fans will be looking for the Colts to pick up the win to help the Seahawks out.
Commentary By Andy Lapic
Photo by Ken Lund –Flickr License